HONG KONG (AP) — Oil prices rallied today after U.S. lawmakers passed legislation to avoid a "fiscal cliff" that would have pushed the world's biggest economy into recession. The U.S. House of Representatives voted near midnight to send the bill to President Barack Obama after a frantic day of political brinksmanship in Washington. Benchmark crude for February delivery rose 95 cents late afternoon in Hong Kong to $92.77 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.02 to finish at $91.82 per barrel in New York on Monday.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The tax package negotiated by President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans and passed by Congress will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase. But that doesn't mean that most of them won't see their taxes rise. In fact, the vast majority of workers will pay higher federal taxes in 2013, largely because a temporary reduction in Social Security payroll taxes expired on New Year's Day. The tax package did nothing to prevent that from happening.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama legislator has proposed a measure that would make the right to bear arms a fundamental right in the Alabama Constitution. That right is already in the U.S. Constitution as the Second Amendment. Republican Rep. Mike Jones of Andalusia told the Web site al.com his proposal would allow state voters to make it part of the state constitution. He said this would make it more difficult for state courts to restrict the right to gun ownership.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A member of Wernher von Braun's rocketry team in Alabama has died. NASA says Jesco von Puttkamer died Thursday after a brief illness. He was 79. Von Puttkamer moved to Huntsville in 1962 and worked with von Braun at the Marshall Space Flight Center. He was an engineer. Von Puttkamer transferred to NASA Headquarters in Washington in 1974. He most recently worked as a technical manager for the International Space Station. Von Puttkamer is survived by his wife, Ursula.
A new state law that takes effect Jan. 1 is designed to crack down on motorists who don't abide by Alabama's mandatory auto insurance law.
State Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee says a new online system will check insurance companies' records within a few seconds to see if a motorist has insurance. County license plate officials will do it when issuing or renewing a tag. Police will do it during traffic stops. And the state Revenue Department will do random checks.
Editor's note: Mobile County Emergency Management says damage assessment crews will head out Wednesday morning to learn the extent of the toll from the violent weather that hit near Mobile on Christmas evening.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Emergency responders are getting ready for what could be a busy Christmas Day in Alabama as severe weather heads toward the state. The head of the state's emergency management agency, Art Faulkner, says local officials are being briefed on a forecast that includes the possibility of strong tornadoes on Tuesday. Faulkner says he is keeping Gov. Robert Bentley up-to-date on the threat, and leaders are trying to get out word through social media and other means.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Forecasters are warning of a high risk of severe weather in parts of Alabama on Christmas Day. The National Weather Service said in a report Monday morning that a powerful low pressure system will sweep across Alabama, bringing the risk of twisters -- some of them possibly strong tornadoes. The weather service's Mobile office projects that southwest Alabama will at a substantial risk of severe weather on Christmas Day. A special weather statement states there's a risk of these storms producing tornadoes during the day, with some strong tornadoes possible.
Nine local governments in north and west Alabama have been awarded more than $15.7 million in grants to help with tornado recovery.
The grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development include $4.8 million to help rebuild Hackleburg's downtown. Eighteen people were killed and many of the businesses in the Marion County town were destroyed or heavily damaged by an April 27 tornado.